CSE joins National Ganga Mission initiative for making cities water-sensitive

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti announce their partnership at a webinar  

New Delhi, July 28, 2021: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is partnering with the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India for a unique three-year action research and capacity building initiative, ‘Making Ganga basin cities water-sensitive’. The initiative is under the national flagship programme for improving river health and water flows in rivers of the Ganga basin – Namami Gange. 

CSE and NMCG jointly launched the initiative here today at a webinar which was addressed by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, NMCG; Sunita Narain, director general, CSE; G Mathi Vathanan, principal secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha; Suresh Rohilla, senior director, Urban Water Programme, CSE; Vandana Menon, independent consultant, New Delhi; and Stanley Samuel, CEO, Ecosoftt Pvt Ltd, Singapore. 

This initiative is part of the series of ongoing efforts by NMCG aimed at ensuring convergence of Namami Gange Mission with other national flagship urban missions (such as AMRUT, Smart Cities or the Swachh Bharat Mission) and missions related to water resource management (such as Atal Bhujal Yojana, Jal Jeewan Mission, or Jal Shakti Mission).  

Speaking at the webinar, CSE director general Sunita Narain pointed out that problems such as dwindling water supply, pollution, urban flooding or groundwater depletion cannot be addressed through isolated missions and programmes. “There is need for a paradigm shift in urban water management to overcome these problems, and strengthen resilience in face of a changing climate. The focus must shift to a circular economy approach; where cities move beyond from consuming excess freshwater and generating sewage, to a system of decentralised water resource management, with focus on sustainable demand-supply mechanisms using traditional and modern technologies,” Narain said. 

Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, NMCG shared how the Namani Gange programme aims to move beyond installing STPs for pollution abatement, and focus on water-sensitive cities and communities in order to ensure river health in urban limits. He stressed on strengthening linkages of the river and its floodplains with the larger urban areas and the need to incorporate the river-sensitive approaches in city master plans. He also focused on the importance of convergence of the various urban missions, so that the authorities can go beyond isolated targets and deliver on the demands of the citizens. 

‘Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning’ (WSUDP), which connects water and urban planning, is the key focus under this initiative. It aims to sensitise urban local bodies about the good practices in urban water management by building the capacities of state and municipal functionaries, conducting action research in cities to develop ‘Practitioners Guides’, and designing and implementing model interventions that can lead to improved river health and flow.  

The Ganga basin cities, which are on target under this initiative, have been undergoing tremendous growth, which has stretched their resource management capabilities and disturbed the urban water cycle. Built-up area in these cities increased by 44 per cent between 2005 and 2015. Over 100 of these cities are dependent on groundwater – they are reporting a widening water supply gap due to an over-exploited aquifer. 

Rapid urbanisation resulting encroaching on ponds, lakes and floodplains have added to the urban water woes. Lucknow, for instance, has lost over 10,000 of its ponds in the past 50 years to both planned and unplanned development. Even some of the Namami Gange priority cities, billed as ‘smart’ cities, are reporting water shortages as well as urban flooding. 

Sharing CSE’s research on stormwater harvesting in parks and open spaces to address issues related to localised urban flooding and groundwater depletion, Suresh Rohilla, senior director, Urban Water Programme, CSE, said: “Urban parks and open areas have immense rainwater and stormwater harvesting potential – if tapped, this could go a long way towards in-situ water augmentation. Cities of Uttar Pradesh such as Prayagraj, Kanpur, Moradabad and Varanasi, for instance, can harvest over 2,400 million litre of run-off from their existing park infrastructure.” 

G Mathi Vathanan, principal secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha outlined how – with knowledge support from CSE -- the department has created more than 12,000 rainwater harvesting structures in 111 towns and cities of Odisha.  

For more details or for interviews, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, 8816818864, sukanya.nair@cseindia.org.